Tim Schell, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, put in context a presentation at Monday night’s Waunakee School Board meeting. “Last year, Technology Director Herb Haubrich, my office, and librarian/technology specialists dedicated a lot of time to survey staff, looking at how we’re using technology, looking at what other districts were doing, what best practices were and engaged in a major reformulation of the Digital Learning Plan (DLP).”
Wisconsin once required districts to review what used to be called the Technology Plan. Though the mandate has been relaxed, Schell explained, “It’s still best practice, like it is in any organization, to think about what you’re doing in the digital arena.”
Schell said the assessment paid particular attention to whether digital resources were consistent across the district’s three elementary schools and whether teachers were well-prepared to use technology to enhance education. The district also deemed it appropriate to pass a tipping point and make available one mobile device per student.
“The Board had spent a lot of time on this last year and invested a lot of resources. We were following up with them to let them know what had transpired,” Schell said.
In introducing her report on the DLP, LMTC Director Melissa Hill said, “We chose the words empowered, engaged and equitable because they…represent our mission.”
According to Hill, the DLP aims to empower students and staff to use digital tools to optimize meaningful learning choices regardless of their learning styles or needs. The district focuses on both helping students navigate an increasingly digitized world and assisting staff to better use digital tools to support teaching and learning.
In doing so, the elementary and intermediate schools thoroughly cross referenced their curricula with DPI’s Information and Technology Literacy Standards.
The district also transitioned to a more complete and up-to-date Learning Management System at the 6-12 grades levels. It allows students to take quizzes and receive immediate feedback. Grades are automatically uploaded into Infinite Campus.
To implement the Children’s Online Protection and Privacy Act, the district has fully vetted digital resources and color-coded those appropriate for student use.
For teachers, beyond the traditional after-school workshop, professional development is now available at home or in personalized sessions.
Hill cited one popular innovation. “Genius Hour has been very well received. Teachers can let us know ahead of time what kinds of tech related projects they want to work on. (Then tech staff) are there to help them with those projects,” she said.
Hill explained that engagement emphasizes connections to students’ lives and interests, collaboration, authentic tasks, creative problem solving, and critical thinking in a constructive setting while assuring that digital tools are used in a responsible, balanced manner.
To that end, there is a first grade digital citizenship unit. Intermediate School students have programs that allow them to code. And older students learn the basics of copyright law.
Hill said Waunakee’s DLP also wants students and staff to have equitable, safe access to digital tools to participate in and connect to classroom, community and global opportunities.
To ensure that content is available to all, Waunakee schools offer read-aloud databases, voice typing programs and tools for new English language learners.
A group of 6th graders form the Students Working to Advance Tech (SWAT) Team to assist Intermediate School students with tech related projects.
And high school students who otherwise would not have internet access at home can check out “Kajeet Smartspots.”
In closing, Hill assured the Board, “We want you to know that we’ve spent a lot of time on tech this year, but we still love our books.”
It was the final meeting for long-time board member Gary Epping. Board President Joan Ensign took time to recognize his many contributions to the district. She reflected that Epping took the time to delve deeply into issues, would ask sometimes difficult but always pertinent questions and always respected differing opinions.
Ensign added, “Gary is truly committed to insuring that Waunakee students achieve at the highest level.” Epping’s seat, representing Springfield and Dane, will be filled by Judith Engebretson, who was elected April 2.